The faces withdrew and Vex smiled. “Thanks guys. Da’s fine.”
Bill nodded. “Alright,” he said. “Out with it. Why’d you come down here? Sure thing not to just buy old Bill a drink. Don’t you youngsters have more interesting things to get up to?”
“A friend of mine ran into something that I think you might know something about. A chrome trimmed black bike with a headless motorcyclist…”
“Ah yes,” the wizened old biker said, leaning back onto his pool cue like it was a medicine staff. “Well, a drink for a story is fair pay. Just sit back and listen to old Bill.”
Vex made a glance around: there were no seats but the pool table.
“Where are my manners… Someone get the lady a chair!”
Someone kicked a stool across the hardwood floor. It skittered to a stop near her. Suddenly, Vex felt five years old again—surrounded by the aged and kindly faces of her impromptu uncles. Overwhelmed, she sat down without objection. A hush passed over the room, even the men near the bar rumbling in their drinks moments before went quiet.
“So you’d like to know about the damned Indian,” Bill said, his voice becoming a sonorous storytelling baritone. “Now, when I say Indian I don’t mean injun like Native American. I’m talking about his bike. Black and chrome, if I recall right, a custom Chief.”
“I hear the bike was a Spirit,” a voice piped up.
Laughter bucked through the crowd. “He’s a spirit all right,” another voice replied.
Bill pursed his lips, a facial expression that seemed to make his beard pucker about the middle. “Am I telling this story or am I not? The Spirit didn’t come out until a few years ago and that damned Indian has been around for a great time longer. So, shaddup and listen.”
A murmur rustled through the room but the assembled men went quiet again and Bill returned his somber gaze back to Vex.
“News of how the Indian came to be are poorly remembered at best, but listen to old Bill and I’ll tell you what I know.
“Now, in spite of the name he’s gotten over the years, the Indian isn’t. Fact is, he was probably German or maybe even some other white skinned European variety.”
“I hear he might have been Hessian,” Jimmy said.
Bill ignored the outburst and kept on. “Some people say the he was from Maine, others that he was from California. He may have been from both of those places and perhaps also from none. What most people agree about the damned Indian is that he was a wanderer, a nomad you might say. Never staying in one place for very long.
“That is—until he died.
“As you might have guessed, on account of his head. The way I figure it is that he was coming up out of the south, out from the Reservation, just passing through as was his usual. During a night of bad weather and no moon; the type of night when all the crows hide in the trees and don’t shout in the dark he happened on a particularly bad stretch of road. And at the same time a Mac truck driver, heavy on his load and a bit light on his sleep came toward that same road.
“Together they met at some forsaken intersection.” Bill moved his hands in front of them like arrows intersecting each other. “And the truck driver ran the light, his lights obscured by dust or inattention… It wasn’t he who struck the Indian; it was the Indian who struck him. Cleaved his head clear from the biker’s shoulders and that Mac driver dragged the boy’s body clear all the way Tucson, his final destination.
“People say he didn’t even know the body was there until a mechanic found the lifeless torso and limbs tangled in the axels.”
Bill paused a moment to down the last swig of his beer and leaned forward.
“True story, I tell you, but it’s not the best part. People say that the Indian returns on starless nights when the sky is a cowl of grey, driving up out of Tucson, looking for his missing head. Damned to ride the road that his body dragged over. Beginning at dusk he searches—vainly—for his missing head, only to be caught by the dawn.”